What is Bromelain?
Could a pineapple a day keep the doctor away? Maybe not, but a dose of bromelain might be helpful. Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme found in the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus). Pineapple has a long tradition as a medicinal plant among the native peoples of South America and Central America. Extracts from the flesh and stem of the pineapple plant were made into dressings and were applied to wounds and skin injuries to reduce inflammation. Drinking the juice of the plant was known to ease stomachaches and indigestion by drinking.
The people of Guadeloupe introduced pineapple as a dessert and a medicinal plant to Christopher Columbus when he came ashore there in 1493. Bromelain, the bioactive ingredient of the pineapple was first isolated in 1891 and was introduced as a therapeutic supplement in 1957. Today, bromelain is used by arthritis patients to help reduce the swelling that causes joint pain. Bromelain has also shown promise in the treatment of pain, numbness, tingling, aching, and loss of motor and sensory function in the fingers resulting from carpal tunnel syndrome. Bromelain contains a protease enzyme that may be beneficial to the heart. Studies have shown that bromelain can reduce the clumping of platelets (small plate like bodies in the blood), the formation of plaques in the arteries, and the formation of blood clots. All these effects help to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease. Bromelain has also been discovered to have anti-tumor action, as well as helping the body absorb medications.
The health benefits of bromelain also include help for colds, asthma, and excessive mucus production in the respiratory system. Patients who suffer from hay fever and other seasonal allergies may also benefit from bromelain's anti-inflammatory activity. Other recognized benefits of bromelain include reducing the painful symptoms of varicose veins, including dull aches, tired legs and feet, and itchy skin.
Pineapple is a mouth-watering fruit, but eating more pineapple won't necessarily increase the bromelain levels in your body. The active ingredients are found in the juice and stem of the plant, and the stem contains more natural bromelain than the fruit. The pineapple stem, while edible, tends to be much less tasty than the succulent berry from the plant. An easier way to add bromelain to your diet is to take a nutritional supplement that contains bromelain. The pills and capsules allow you to get the necessary bromelain content, and the powder inside is guaranteed not to drip down your chin.
In summary, bromelain is an all-natural extract of the stem and juice of the pineapple plant. Medically, bromelain appears to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to other anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen.